Secrets By the Seashore

New luxury all-inclusive on the Riviera Maya wows guests

By: Kenneth Shapiro

Everything is new at Secrets Excellence, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, even the palm trees.

“Si, las palmas estan nueva,” the gardener told me. “Pero bonitas.”

New, but beautiful. That’s a fitting description for the resort as a whole. Opened in October, Secrets Excellence still has a new, somewhat artificial, feel to it, but it is also one of the most luxurious resorts in the region.

And in this case, artificial isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Driving down the dreary two-lane road that leads to Secrets, it’s a bit of a shock to suddenly reach the gates of this immaculate resort like stumbling on a Mayan palace in the middle of the jungle.

In this 440-room, all-suite, all-inclusive resort, guests are certainly treated like royalty, beginning with the extra-large rooms, which average over 600 square feet and feature a Jacuzzi tub, four-poster bed, patio or balcony and comfortable dressing area. The marble bathroom area is especially spacious and includes a separate shower and toilet, double vanities with phone and sound speaker, and the usual high-end bath products.

Room amenities are also top-notch, including satellite television, CD/DVD player, high-speed Internet and daily-restocked mini-bar.

If you have clients that insist on nothing but the best, go a step further and suggest the hotel’s Secrets Excellence Club. This resort-within-a-resort has its own members-only area with a separate pool and beach area, separate concierge service, free in-room Internet and more. The ocean-view suite I was in came with the standard Jacuzzi tub in the room, as well as a second one under the stars on the balcony. It also had a butler’s nook a cubby hole where my coffee and newspaper was delivered each morning before I woke up.

‘Spa Island’
The rooms here are only part of what makes the resort unique, however. While the grounds may feel new, the spa seems like it has been there forever. It offers a unique range of treatment options, many based on indigenous products and Mayan rituals. Chief among these is the Temazcal, a Mayan steam lodge treatment that includes an ancient purification ritual.

At over 18,000 square feet, the spa building is one of the resort’s highlights. It’s located on an island in one of the pools and features huge Roman columns decorated with two-story-tall sheer flowing curtains.

Water is an important theme throughout the resort, and the spa reinforces this with its 6,500-square-foot “hydrotherapy circuit.” This treatment features an elaborate 18-step course that includes Hammam steam rooms, cold rooms and an assortment of Jacuzzi pools with more specialized functions than you can imagine. At times the circuit felt like a cross between an obstacle course and a spa amusement park. In any case, it is definitely a must-do for guests.

Beyond the spa, the resort features various sports facilities and amenities, including six swimming pools, a gym, scuba instruction, snorkeling, sea kayaking, windsurfing, volleyball, tennis, billiards and more. A clever highlight is the placement of hammocks strung over the pools so that they hang down just to the level of the water making for a relaxing morning spent swaying gently in the pool.

There is also a 580-seat theater on property for special events and nightly Las Vegas-style live shows.

When not at the spa or the beach, guests will find seven a la carte and two buffet restaurants and nine bars to try as part of the all-inclusive plan. Not to mention, 24-hour room service.

While I found the food adequate if not great, one of the advantages of being only 20 minutes from Cancun is that guests can choose to go out to dinner (and take in a bit of the famous Cancun nightlife too).

On the Rise
AMResorts, owner of the Secrets brand, has 11 properties in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. This fast-growing company, which is a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts and Summit Hotels, also operates the nearby Sunscape Puerto Aventuras and Dreams Cancun, which is located right on Punta Cancun in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone. Apple Vacations is a partner of AMResorts and includes their properties in Apple’s packages.

While Secrets Excellence is adults-only, the recently renovated Sunscape Puerto Aventuras is ideal for families with a kids club, outdoor family films (“Shrek 2” was playing the night I was there) and cookouts on the beach that feel like a backyard barbecue.

With Secrets on one end of the luxury spectrum, Dreams in the middle and Sunscape on the other end, AMResorts is emerging as a force in the Latin American and Caribbean resort market, with options for every budget.

Still, there’s no doubt that Secrets Excellence is at the top of the company’s food chain. And just wait until the palm trees have grown some.


Secrets Excellence
Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico
52-984-873-4880, 866-467-3273

Hits: Only 20 minutes from Cancun. This luxury all-suite, all-inclusive treats guests like VIPs. Incredible spa, with unique water treatments. Large rooms with Jacuzzi tub. Excellence Club takes amenities up a notch.

Misses: Failed to get my wake-up call two days in a row. Resort grounds still feel a bit new.

Be Aware: Secrets Excellence is an adults-only resort. Families are better off trying the nearby Sunscape Puerto Aventura. Apple Vacations is a partner of AMResorts, and includes all of their brands in Apple’s packages (

Plugging In: Rooms have high-speed Internet service for a fee. Guests in the Secrets Excellence Club get free Internet access.

Rates: Low season is $220-$570 per person; high season is $320-$670.

Commission: 10 percent